Looking to cheer on the athletes running the Chevron Houston Marathon or Aramco Houston Half Marathon? Running the race and searching for the best post-race spot to celebrate and/or recover? Visiting town for the weekend and wanting to experience the city like a local? We’ve got you covered.
Over 27,000 runners will be rolling into the Houston streets come January 14, 2018. An estimated 200,000 spectators are expected to come out and cheer on the runners. Lucky for both participants and cheerleaders, Houston has a beautiful, spectator-friendly course. I’m an ambassador for the race and will be running the Aramco Houston Half Marathon! Catch me speaking at the Race EXPO at 3:30pm on January 12 and 13. I hope to see all your smiling faces out there!
Below is a list of favorite hot spots around the city that are perfect for watching the race. They are listed by approximate mileage locations for the half (H) and full (F) marathons. Check out the race map below for info on street closure times. Use that as a guide to determine when and where the most heavily trafficked parts of the city are during the race. The Spectator Info page on the Houston Marathon website also provides some good timing tips.
Shotgun is at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, so set your alarm, grab your poster boards (here’s some ideas!), cowbells and enthusiasm and choose a spot to cheer on all the running fanatics hitting the pavement. I’ll be one of the many out there on the half marathon trail and can’t wait to see your smiling faces!
2017 Full & Half Marathon Watch Spots
- Mile 0 (F/H): Market Square Park. 301 Milam St. If you’re an early riser and/or live downtown, catch the runners take off at the start line at Market Square Park! Admire the lovely art and fountains, and then reward yourself with a breakfast gyro from Niko Niko’s which opens at 8am.
- Mile 1 (F/H): Catalina Coffee. 2201 Washington Ave. Opens at 7 a.m. on race day–just in time to see the first pack of runners roll on by. This is a super hipster, throw-back, no-wifi coffee shop that has a few tables outside to sit at while the race commences.
- Mile 2 (F/H): Urban Eats. 3414 Washington Ave. A local Houston favorite, this bistro is opening early at 7 a.m. and hosting a watch party on their patio and second-floor terrace. They’ll be serving a menu of artisan breakfast sandwiches, pastries and free coffee refills to help everyone stay warm. Plus, their full brunch menu begins at 9 a.m. and offers delicious southern favorites like to-die-for monkey bread and bomb Bloody Mary’s. Read more why we love them more here!
- Mile 4 (F/H): Starbucks. 2029 W. Gray St. You have to see it to believe it! This intersection, in a uniquely Houston way, has three Starbucks on one corner and an outpouring support of enthusiastic (caffeinated?) fans, lining the streets of River Oaks Shopping Center. When you’re done marveling at the irony of corporate America, walk a block down into River Oaks Shopping Center and grab breakfast at Epicure Bakery (2005 W. Gray St.). It opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
- Mile 6 (F/H): House of Pies. 3112 Kirby Dr. Open 24/7 this classic diner has been serving homemade pie and hot coffee to Houstonians for over 45 years. On race day, expect loads of people to be lining Kirby with music, dance troupes, and tailgating stations!
- Mile 7 (F/H): Baileson Brewing. 2322 Bissonet St. This neighborhod spot is hosting @theUSO and the Cody Wayne Band (@codywaynemusic) on their front patio, as they cheer on the runners. They can’t serve beer until noon, due to TABC Blue Laws on Sundays, but they’ll be giving out orange slices to the runners (thanks!!), making signs for them, and will be serving breakfast as well.
- Mile 8 (F): Rice University Running Trail. 2325 Rice Blvd. As a runner, I love training on this nice, shaded gravel trail. This spot is a place to gain inspiration from all the marathon runners and do the 3 mile loop with your stroller, dog, or simply running shoes. Plus, the Rice Owl Marking Band will be making an appearance in this area!
- Mile 9 (H): Snooze AM Eatery. 3217 Montrose. Known for their notorious wait times for brunch, Snooze offer up a menu filled with breakfast favorites, like decadent pancakes and hearty hashes. Since you’ll likely be standing outside for at least an hour waiting for a table, you may as well bring a sign or two to cheer on the runners! Plus, there’s also an option to get seated outside with a clear view of the race course on Montrose Blvd.
- Mile 10 (F): Rice Village. 2400 University Blvd. Expect lots of enthusiastic fans from the West U neighborhood to be out here cheering on runners on University Blvd and up Kirby. After the crowds die down, reward yourself with a decadently delightful crepe from Sweet Paris Creperie & Café. After the crowds die down, reward yourself with a decadently delightful crepe from Sweet Paris Creperie & Café. Or if you’re visiting town for the first time, a breakfast taco from Torchy’s is a must and a kolache from Kolache Factory is a must uniquely Houston experience.
- Mile 10 (H): Inversion Coffee House. 1953 Montrose Blvd. Open bright and early on Sunday morning, the baristas will be armed and ready to fuel all your caffeine needs, offer you a nice spot to stay warm (or cool off, depending on how the Houston weather goes) and maybe provide a tasty treat like a homemade baked oreo bar.
- Mile 14/15 (F): Post Oak Blvd. If you’re looking to cheer on runners, see a performance, and then do a little shopping, head to the Galleria and be on the look out for a cloggers dance group around Mile 14 and belly dancers at Mile 15. Plus, this may be the one time you see the Galleria area traffic free, so that’s pretty novel in itself.
- Mile 20 -22 (F): Memorial Park. 7575 N. Picnic Ln. This is the marathoner’s home stretch and often when they hit the metaphorical “runners wall” aka the hardest part of the course where they really need to stay motivated. Grab a spot on the gravel park trail or Memorial Drive median and cheer with all your might! Miles of Music, powered by Clif Bar will have rocking good tunes and fuel at the Clif Energy Zone to carry runners through this 3-mile stretch on their way to the finish line.
- Mile 23-24 (F) / Mile 11-12 (H): Buffalo Bayou Park. 3115 Allen Pkwy. This is the hilliest part of the marathon course so encouragement is definitely needed here as runners take on the final miles of the race. Plenty of sidewalk space on both sides of Allen Parkway for cheerleaders. Dick’s Sporting Goods will be posted up in this area as well. Last year, I actually went for a short (in comparison) run along the south side of the bayou and loved watching all the runners go by. Buffalo Bayou is definitely one of my favorite nature spots in Houston and the Kitchen at the Dunlavy makes a mean brunch!
A fun way to get involved with the race AND raise money for the Houston Marathon Foundation (which does a load of super cool things in Houston!) is to follow Zach Cater-Cyke on race day. He’s a super speedy runner (I run with his wife sometimes!) and will be the last person to start the race. Every person he passes on the way to the finish line will be a donation! The more people he passes, the more money he makes! ABC 13 will be tracking him throughout the day. You can be a part of the fun and donate here. You can donate a flat amount OR you can donate an amount per runner that he passes (e.g., 2 cents or something).
Post Race Celebration Spots
As a runner and athlete of many years, I can truly appreciate the wonders of a great post-race meal. In addition to all the excitement that will be happening in downtown Houston at the Finish Line and Discovery Green, here are some of my favorite tried and true spots around town to commemorate a truly fantastic run! Plus, they don’t mind if you roll in a bit sweaty 😉
- FM Kitchen & Bar (1112 Shepherd Dr.): Catch me here after the race enjoying all of the mimosas and tater tots. This neighborhood spot has a classic hearty dishes like burgers and milkshakes, as well as brunch favorites like breakfast tacos and fried chicken biscuit. The patio outside is large with umbrellas, picnic tables, some of our favorite wall art in the city, as well as heaters in case it gets cold! Also props to the huge parking lot with out valet–a rarity in inner-looping Houston. FM Kitchen & Bar will be giving out free beers to race finishers!
- Local Foods (2555 Kirby Dr.): I’ve recovered from many a Soul Cycle and yoga class here on the fantastic patio courtyard with a specialty drink in hand and super-healthy meal in my belly. Local Food’s menu is filled with amazing season items that are super vegetarian friendly. Lunch items include dishes like a Falafel Sandwich, Achiote Pork Torta, Garden Sammie with Brussels Sprouts and avocado (personal fav), and sides like quinoa, Tuscan kale, and acorn squash. Leaving Local Foods, you’re always a better more nourished person.
- Niko Niko’s Market Square (301 Milam St.) or the Original Niko Nikos (2520 Montrose Blvd.): This is my go-to spot whenever friend comes into town. The food is hearty, healthy (ish), and even been featured on the Food Network! Everything on the menu is fantastic, but the breakfast gyros, which are only served on weekends, have a special place in my heart. They’re pretty big–don’t get them confused with a breakfast taco–but after a big race I can easily eat two!
- MKT Bar and Phoenicia Specialty Market (1001 Austin St.): Located downtown a block away from Discovery Green, this spot is a great one for fueling up. If you’re in a rush, grab something to go at the specialty grocery store salad bar, gyro station and pita pocket deli (personal favorite), but if you have time to sit and relax, grab a table at MKT Bar, order a round of mimosas and indulge in their delightful brunch menu. I’m a big fan of the veggie pizza, which is a pretty hearty serving size!
Post Race Recovery Spots
- Revolution Studio (River Oaks, Memorial, Sugarland): In addition to running past the River Oaks studio around Mile 4 (if you catch an early yoga class on Sunday you might see some of the runners out the window!), all Revolution Studios are offering FREE yoga to anyone registered for the race — just show your race bib when you sign up for a class. Here’s the Instagram post with more information.
- Massage Heights, Washington Heights (103 Yale St.): The sports massages at this spa got me through my half marathon this year. I had three massages over the course of my training and each masseuse I got really took his job seriously and went to town on all the knots I’ve developed in my calves, feet and hips. I also got tips on how to stretch out my IT band and use a baseball to relieve tension in my feet arches. The Massage Heights team provided incredibly helpful tips and massage sessions that made crossing that final finish line all the more possible. Highly recommended an appointment here for those runners who want to loosen up after race day.
- Hiatus Spa (5740 San Felipe): This Tanglewood spa is all about continual self-care. I’ve been indulging in their monthly H-Circle Membership package (just $69 per month) that gets you one essential treatments like massages, mani/pedi, facials and more each month. Relaxation with a side of luxury at a totally manageable price makes this spot totally worth it for a post-run massage in a beautiful atmosphere.